Major Portuguese banks have started closing or refusing to open accounts for cryptocurrency platforms such as exchanges, according to media reports. The move threatens to tarnish the country’s image as one of Europe’s most crypto-friendly destinations, a haven for bitcoin enthusiasts.
Portugal, a leading European crypto hub, is risking the loss of its attractiveness for crypto businesses and talent working in the industry as some of its largest banks are now closing accounts of companies operating with digital currencies.
Last week, the nation’s biggest listed bank, Banco Comercial Portugues, and another major institution, Banco Santander, shut down all the accounts of Lisbon-based Criptoloja, Bloomberg reported, quoting the exchange’s co-founder and CEO Pedro Borges. The development follows the decision of two smaller banks to close the platform’s accounts.
No official explanation was provided in either of these cases, the crypto entrepreneur emphasized. Meanwhile, the state-owned bank Caixa Geral de Depositos and the Lisbon-based BiG have also started rejecting or closing down crypto exchange accounts, Jornal de Negocios unveiled this week.
At least two other crypto brokers have been hit by bank account closures this year, the report notes. Mind the Coin has been unable to open an account for months, and rival Luso Digital Assets had some of its accounts closed down, its executives complained.
Anti-money laundering and know-your-customer rules are often the main reasons cited by lenders who refuse to work with crypto companies. Banco Comercial explained that it’s obliged to report suspicious transactions which may lead to termination of banking services for some entities. Banco Santander acts “in accordance with its perception of risk,” a representative said.
“We now have to rely on using accounts outside Portugal to run the exchange,” Criptoloja’s founder Pedro Borges admitted. That’s despite his company becoming the first to obtain a license from the central bank last year. Criptoloja has always informed authorities of suspicious operations and followed all compliance procedures, he pointed out. Mind the Coin’s Pedro Guimaraes added:
While there is no official explanation, some banks just tell us they don’t want to work with crypto companies. It’s almost impossible to start a crypto business in Portugal right now.
Three out of five coin trading platforms authorized by Banco de Portugal have had their accounts shut down this year. While it’s unclear whether the trend is affecting other companies in the sector, it could be a sign of a toughening environment in Portugal, which lured crypto enthusiasts with its zero-percent tax on crypto gains, affordable living costs, and mild climate.
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